Most asylum seekers in Malta qualify for protection

EU data shows that over 84% of asylum seekers, mainly Somali, in 2013 were bona fide recipients of international protection

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
19 June 2014, 12:44pm
84% of decisions on asylum claims in Malta were positive (Photo: Ray Attard)
84% of decisions on asylum claims in Malta were positive (Photo: Ray Attard)
Malta had one of the highest recognition rates, 84%, for asylum seekers who were granted refugee status, subsidiary protection or temporary protection on humanitarian grounds.

The data for 2013 issued by Eurostat, shows that the majority of asylum seekers in Malta who applied for asylum qualified for some form of protection.

There were 1,905 decisions on asylum requests in 2013, 1,605 of which deserved some form of protection. Of the 140 appeals to rejected asylum claims, only one rejection was overturned.

Syrians became Malta’s third largest group (270) of asylum seekers granted protection status, while Somalis (665) and Eritreans (550) were the main recipients of protection.

Last year, 24 boats arrived in Malta with 2,008 irregular immigrants, the highest number since 2008, and a 6.2% increase over 2012. Nearly half arrived in July 2013. Somali nationals made up 49.8 per cent, while one-fourth were Eritreans.

In total, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner filed 2,246 new applications for international protection, an 8% increase over 2012. More than half were men aged 18-34, of whom 44.7 per cent were Somalis and 23.8 per cent Eritreans. Another 12.4 per cent originated from Asia, predominantly from Syria (60.1 per cent).

Visa overstayers

During 2013, 2,437 persons were found to be present illegally in Malta – an increase of 8% over 2012. The majority, 82.8 per cent, were Africans, and a further 13.6 per cent were Asians (mainly of Syrian and Palestinian origin).

Of the persons found to be illegally present, 460 were sent back to their country of origin, with 60.9 per cent returning to African countries, predominantly Libya. 299 persons were refused entry at Malta International Airport. More than half were stopped because they had no sufficient means of subsistence.

Another 19.1 per cent did not have a valid visa or residence permit and 15.4 per cent had an unjustified purpose or condition of stay. 428 third-country nationals resettled in another country – an increase of eight persons over 2012. Another 55 persons benefited from assisted voluntary return programmes.

EU Figures

The EU28 Member States granted protection to 135,700 asylum seekers in 2013, compared with 116,200 in 2012.

Over the last five years, more than 570,000 asylum seekers were granted some form of protection status in the EU.

The three largest groups of beneficiaries of protection status in the EU28 in 2013 remained citizens of Syria
(35,800 persons or 26% of the total number of persons granted protection status), Afghanistan (16,400 or 12%) and Somalia (9,700 or 7%).

Syrians, whose number has almost doubled compared with 2012, represented in 2013 the largest group granted protection status in half of the Member States and one of the three largest groups in 23 of the 28 Member States. Of the 35,800 Syrians granted protection status in the EU28, more than 60% were recorded in two Member States: Sweden (12,000) and Germany (9,600). Of the 16,400 Afghans granted protection, more than three-quarters were registered in Germany (5,000), Austria and Sweden (both 2,300), Italy (1,600) and Belgium (1,500). Of the 9,700 Somalis, 2,800 were granted protection status in the Netherlands, 1,700 in Sweden and 1,600 in Italy.

70% of protection status granted in five Member States

In 2013, the highest number of persons granted protection status was registered in Sweden (26,400), followed by Germany (26,100), France (16,200), Italy (14,500) and the United Kingdom (13,400). All together, these five Member States accounted for more than 70% of all those granted protection status in the EU28.

In total, of the 135,700 persons who were granted protection status in 2013, 64,500 persons were granted refugee status (47% of all positive decisions), 50,900 subsidiary protection (37%) and 20,400 authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons (15%). In addition, the EU28 Member States received 4,800 resettled refugees.

While both refugee and subsidiary protection status are defined by EU law, humanitarian status is granted on the basis of national legislation.

More than 34% first instance decisions positive

In 2013, 326,600 first instance decisions on asylum applications were made in the EU28 and 135,000 final decisions on appeal. Decisions made at the first instance resulted in 111,100 persons being granted protection status, while a further 24,600 received protection status on appeal.

The rate of recognition of asylum applicants, the share of positive decisions in the total number of decisions, was 34% for first instance decisions. For final decisions on appeal, the recognition rate was 18%.

In the Member States, the highest rates of recognition for first instance decisions were recorded in Bulgaria (87%), Malta (84%), Romania (64%), Italy and the Netherlands (both 61%), while those for final decisions on appeal were registered in Bulgaria (93%), Italy (78%), Finland (77%), Romania (60%) and the Netherlands (57%).

What do they mean?

Person granted refugee status means a person covered by a decision granting refugee status, as defined by the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: a refugee means a third country national who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or a stateless person, who, being outside of the country of former habitual residence for the same reasons as mentioned above, is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it.

Person granted subsidiary protection status means a person covered by a decision granting subsidiary protection status, that is, a third country national or a stateless person who does not qualify as a refugee but in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned would face a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to her country.

Person granted authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons means a person covered by a decision granting authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons under national law concerning international protection.

Resettled refugees means persons who have been granted an authorisation to reside in a Member State within the framework of a national or Community resettlement scheme.

First instance decision means a decision made in response to an asylum application at the first instance level of the asylum procedure.

Final decision on appeal means a decision granted at the final instance of administrative/judicial asylum procedure and which results from the appeal lodged by the asylum seeker rejected in the preceding stage of the procedure. 

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.